The role of the arts and culture in Philadelphia's migrant communities had been of interest to SIAP since its first effort to develop an inventory of nonprofit cultural providers in the city and region. Since 1996 the team has been interested in the role of ethnic diversity in stimulating cultural engagement, and immigration is clearly one of the generators of increased diversity. Work with Reinvestment Fund on Culture and Community Revitalization had convinced SIAP that immigration was a key element of the "new urban reality" that was changing the context within which the arts and culture operate. Finally, SIAP was part of The Philadelphia Migration Project--funded by the University of Pennsylvania Institute for Urban Research—which began in 2005 conducting seminars and developing a database on the topic. These various strands came together in June 2006 when Mark Stern attended a conference on immigrant arts at Princeton. As a result of that conference, Stern and Seifert with Domenic Vitiello wrote a paper that appeared in Art in the Lives of Immigrant Communities in the United States, edited by Paul DiMaggio and Patricia Fernandez-Kelly (Rutgers Series: Public Life of the Arts, 2010).
In 2010, in collaboration with the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation and with support by the William Penn Foundation, SIAP led an investigation of the role that nonprofit arts and culture play in Philadelphia's migrant communities. The pilot study centered on the concept of "arts-based social inclusion"—the idea that a set of artists and cultural organizations are consciously using the arts as a way to improve the life circumstances of new Philadelphians and integrate them into community life. SIAP's findings suggested that the concept was grounded—both as a practice strategy and a policy dilemma. The key question was best articulated by an interviewee: "How can migrants both retain their identity and enter the larger society? How can we use the arts to do that?"